WHITE PLAINS, NY — You’re a hospital visitor and dash into the gift shop to find something, anything, to bring cheer. Or, you pop in for a break from the stress of waiting by a loved one’s bedside. If it’s a Monday, chances are you’ll find more than a gift at The Boutique in the White Plains Hospital Main Lobby — you might meet Celeste Vazzana, the 100 year-old — who is also one of the Hospital’s many long serving volunteers.
For 28 years, Mrs. Vazzana has been a gift shop fixture, giving customers buying advice, a warm smile, and as her daughter Barbara DeGeorge notes with a chuckle, often “Buying up much of the jewelry on display herself!”
Numerous studies of the elderly affirm that living a life with purpose—specifically by volunteering and giving back—enhances personal health and wellness. In Ms. Vazzano’s case, her daughter says “she likes to have a set schedule each week, and she takes her volunteer work at the hospital very seriously. Throughout my life she’s always volunteered.”
According to Roseanne Braiotta, Director of Ancillary Programs and Volunteer Services at White Plains Hospital, which has a long history of serving the community, many volunteers are motivated to give back in any way that they can.
“Whether someone was a patient here, or saw the excellent care provided to their loved one, many of our volunteers have a strong personal connection to the Hospital,” Ms. Braiotta notes. “When people come here at what is likely one of the most vulnerable points of their life and experience the compassion of our highly skilled medical and nursing staff, a strong emotional bond is formed.”
A Lifelong Commitment to Giving Back
Mrs. Vazzana first began volunteering at White Plains Hospital in 1989. For most of her 28 years of service, she’s worked two days a week at the gift shop. Recently, she’s had to limit her work schedule to one day a week. Despite the reduced schedule, Mrs. Vazzana, a New Rochelle/Scarsdale resident, is in no way slowing down. According to Ms. DeGeorge, her mother’s weekly agenda is packed with her volunteer work, visits to the New Rochelle Senior Center, shopping trips, hair and nail appointments, and more. “My mother is very active and even lives on her own. She is supported by a circle of family and friends who live nearby,” she says. Married for 30 years, Mrs. Vazzana’s husband passed away in 1967. On her own with five young daughters, she went back to work full time at the New York Telephone Company so that her daughters could all finish or attend college. “She felt strongly that she wanted us all to finish school, despite the fact that many people at that time thought we should quit school and go to work to help out with expenses,” notes Ms. DeGeorge.
According to Charles Martinez, manager of the Hospital Boutique, “Celeste often gets here at 8:30 in the morning, an hour before we open, and is waiting for us. She is very organized and always has her day planned.” Like most, Mr. Martinez was curious about Mrs. Vazzana’s formula for achieving such longevity. “She told me what works for her is pasta, wine, her kitty, and playing the slot machines!” he notes.
White Plains Hospital offers a range of volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. Its volunteer corps has grown to nearly 500 dedicated and talented individuals who together donate nearly 60,000 hours of their time annually. For information on volunteering, please call (914) 681-1225.